Elizabeth of Hungary vs. John Donne

This matchup features the first of the six female entrants in Lent Madness 2011, Elizabeth of Hungary, taking on the poet John Donne. This figures to be a tough decision, especially for the Anglophiles among us so let’s get down to the business of learning a bit about these two.

In recent action Charles Simeon defeated Philip. He’ll go on to face the winner of Vincent vs. Clement of Alexandria. Click Lent Madness 2011 to view the updated tournament bracket.

Elizabeth of Hungary was born a Hungarian princess in 1207. At the age of four she was brought to central Germany as a prospective bride to shore up political alliances. She was married at fourteen to Ludwig IV of Thuringia, an apparently happy marriage. A couple of years later some Franciscan monks arrived in Thuringia and Elizabeth became fascinated with the ideals of St. Francis. Ludwig supported her endeavors as she began to devote more of her time and resources to charity.

While Ludwig was traveling abroad, Elizabeth took over the affairs at home and, in addition to giving alms to the poor, built a 28-bed hospital where she daily visited the patients. Her life would change dramatically when she was 20 — Ludwig died of the plague in Italy en route to the Sixth Crusade. She took a vow of celibacy and lived as a nun for the rest of her life. Following her death in 1231, miracles of healing were attributed to her by pilgrims visiting her grave site.

Of the various stories about Elizabeth she is perhaps best known for the legend that says while she was taking bread to the poor in secret, her Ludwig asked her what was in her bag. Elizabeth opened it and the bread turned into roses. Thus many depictions of Elizabeth show her holding roses.

Collect for Elizabeth of Hungary
Almighty God, by your grace your servant Elizabeth of Hungary recognized and honored Jesus in the poor of this world: Grant that we, following her example, may with love and gladness serve those in any need or trouble, in the name and for the sake of Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

John Donne (1572-1631) was an English priest and is best known as a metaphysical poet. Originally, however, he sought a career in  government service and attended law school. He became the private secretary to Sir Thomas Egerton for a time but this ended when in 1601 he secretly married Egerton’s 16-year-old niece. Egerton was furious and had Donne imprisoned.

The subsequent years were marked by poverty, illness, and desperation. In 1615 he was ordained after having presumably given up hope of a career in Parliament. A cynic would say that he was ordained as a last resort but most of his famous poetry was actually written before his ordination.

After his ordination he gained a reputation as an excellent  preacher grew steadily. He served as Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral in London from 1622 until his death and his preaching reportedly drew huge crowds. His most famous poem may well be “No Man is an Island.”

Collect for John Donne
Almighty God, the root and fountain of all being: Open our eyes to see, with your servant John Donne, that whatever has any being is a mirror in which we may behold you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.



6 Comments on “Elizabeth of Hungary vs. John Donne”

  1. Lois Schenck says:

    Check out Fr. Tim’s parents’ all time favorite poem: “The Ecstasy” written by the same John Donnne referred to in their son’s blog!

  2. commcanon says:

    This is madness all right! Not at all pleased with this face-off of two favs so early in the game. Can’t decide. Must pray. “Pay attention to the poet; you need him and you know it.” OTOH, E of H was very saintly. Whah!

  3. Bob Chapman says:

    Elizabeth of Hungary isn’t the only saint to care for the sick and poor. These saints are a dime a dozen. Wenceslas. Mother Teresa. Martyrs of Memphis.

    How many saints can write a devote poem on the personal nature of sin while making a snide pun on his name and on the name of his wife? “When thou hast done, thou hast not done, for I have more.”

    I’ve done decided for Donne.

  4. Sister Mary Winifred says:

    In recent action Philip defeated Charles Simeon. . . this isn’t what’s on the chart.

  5. Father Tim says:

    Ack! Sister Mary is correct — I’ve fixed the typo. Charles Simeon did indeed defeat Philip. It’s WAY too early in Lent Madness for me to be making mistakes like this…

  6. I left a comment earlier, but it seems to have vanished. I too object to this face-off! No fair having to vote for only one of these!

    Elizabeth it is, because married woman saints with children– not so common.

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